Seven Twitter users who are suing President Donald Trump for blocking them should not be allowed to proceed with a request for a preliminary injunction requiring Trump to remove the blocks, the Department of Justice argues in court papers submitted late Friday.
The DOJ contends that the federal courts aren't authorized to grant such an injunction given that judges can't tell a president how to perform "official duties."
"This Court does not have jurisdiction to redress Plaintiffs’ alleged First Amendment injury. To do so would require an injunction ordering the President to 'unblock' particular individuals -- relief that this Court cannot award," the DOJ argues in a letter addressed to U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan.
The DOJ also argues against "extending the First Amendment's reach" to cover Trump's decisions to block Twitter users.
"It would send the First Amendment deep into uncharted waters to hold that a president’s choices about whom to follow, and whom to block, on Twitter -- a privately run website that, as a central feature of its social-media platform, enables all users to block particular individuals from viewing posts -- violate the Constitution," the DOJ writes.
The letter comes in response to a lawsuit filed last month by seven Twitter users blocked by Trump, along with Columbia University's Knight First Amendment Institute. They allege that their free-speech rights were violated when they were excluded from Trump's Twitter account.
The users argue that Trump's Twitter account is a "public forum," meaning that it is comparable to city streets or public parks -- locales where the government can't censor speech based on people's viewpoints.
"The President’s tweets routinely generate tens of thousands of comments in the vibrant discussion forums," the complaint alleges. "The President’s advisors have stated that tweets from @realDonaldTrump are 'official statements,' and they have been treated as such by politicians, world leaders, the National Archive and Records Administration, and federal courts."
In addition to Trump, the users are also suing social media director Daniel Scavino and former press secretary Sean Spicer.
Twitter users who are blocked from Trump's account can't view the tweets or replies while logged in. But if those users sign out of Twitter, they may still be able to view the posts. Blocked users are also restricted from commenting in some threads, but there are workarounds to that restriction.